Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Christiana & Aaron's Wedding Weekend

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Life is a whirlwind around here! On Wednesday, we left town for Austin for the occasion of my friend Christiana's wedding to her love, Aaron. Christiana and I have been friends since we were in 6th grade. We shared the same love for theater and walking instead of running around the track in PE. We had many wonderful conversations on Murchison hill and in the bleachers, and occasionally, we still have great and long phone conversations. Christiana lives in New York City now and is a professional actress, composer, and voice teacher. I'm so proud of her, and it was amazing to be in Austin to see my friend of nearly twenty years marry the person she loves most.

Brendan and I were psyched about welcome drinks on the rooftop of the Westin. On the way there, Brendan said, "wait, do we know anyone there besides Christiana?" It occurred to me that, other than her family, we probably didn't, but we had a great time meeting her and Aaron's friends, and the time flew by.

The next day, we arrived at Scottish Rite Theatre at 4PM. The stage was set (quite literally) for a beautiful wedding. Since Aaron is a professional actor and singer, there was no place more logical for these two to tie the knot. Their ceremony was heartfelt. My favorite part was their friends that sang and played in a band during the ceremony.

Doesn't this look like the perfect play? Except it's real life. Very meta!

We walked over to the Shultz Beer Garden reception hall afterwards. It was lovely not having to move the car!

Is this wedding cake gorgeous or what? It was love at first sight and love at first bite! 

These two had so much energy. They lit up the room with their first dance (a friend sang "So This is Love" for them). 

This was a new wedding first for me: surprise bowling! After dinner, this bowling alley opened up with five lanes. Brendan met some new friends from our table and had a blast bowling. There was also a candy bar, which was throughly enjoyed by all. 

The cake was delicious too! 

It was a beautiful evening, and we know these two are having a great time in Aruba on their honeymoon. Congrats to Christi and Aaron!

Of course, I would never go to Austin without seeing my favorite cousins:

My cousin Stephen and his wife Casey went to Vegas, so Matt and Amanda and Brendan and I borrowed their kiddo and my aunt Sally (Stephen's mom) for the afternoon. This jumping thing comes from Sam's Club and is the most amazing kids toy I've ever seen.

I simply love this girl and this baby.

Coloring with Brendan :) 

It was a quick trip to Austin, but we were able to see my parents, my cousins, and be at the wedding, and I even made time to get my hair done. We came back to Midland on Sunday, and the unpacking and laundry to repack (more on that later) immediately began. Lola and Zoe are in Austin being looked after by our amazing family. I know they're in good hands, but I miss them like crazy. I've never been in this home without them, so it's super weird!

We've been frantically working to finish stories (explanation forthcoming) and grade for our interim classes. I will be able to submit final interim grades tomorrow. As usual, the interim has flown by. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to teach it, but after a full day of grading today and one coming up tomorrow, I am ready to be done (I'm sure the students are too!)

We hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend.

Happy end of May (doesn't seem possible!)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Erin Condren 2018 LifePlanner Review & $10 Coupon

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

If you know me, you know that yesterday was basically Christmas for me since my 2018 Erin Condren LifePlanner arrived!

Before we get into the review, I'd like to state for the record that I purchase my own Erin Condren products and am not compensated in any way by the company. I just really like the products. Should you decide to give their LifePlanner (or anything else EC) a try after reading my review, I'd really appreciate it if you'd use my personal referral link (you will save $10, and I will get a $10 credit, so it's a win/win!)

First, a few details: There are not a LOT of options for the LifePlanner. You can get a hardcover book or a spiral bound now (which uses interchangeable covers); I love the traditional spiral. You can personalize your cover (many of the designs, like this one, you can choose any color combination you want), and you can choose the color of your spiral (I picked Rose Gold). You can also choose if you want remaining months of 2017 + 2018 or just 2018. I always buy my LifePlanner in the summers, but I only get it for the upcoming Jan-Dec year. I personally like a less heavy book, but I want to be able to write down future dates as they come in.

I love how my design came out. The hardest part will be waiting to use it! 

This year, EC continued to leave the pouch unattached to the planner, but they do provide a large coil clip if you wish to attach it yourself. I leave mine out of my book: I've found this makes it less heavy and flatter (the interchangeable covers sometimes peel off non-flat planners. This is no big deal, you just pop the cover back onto the spiral, but it can be annoying to have to do that frequently). The inside of the book cover is dry erase (you can use permanent marker and alcohol will erase it), and they kept the same velum overlay, which is pretty and functional (protects from smearing if you use your dry erase board). 

The pouch included some freebies like compliment cards, gift tags (Brendan and I ordered some of these and love them for taking bottles of wine to birthdays, housewarmings, etc.), a large coil clip, sticker sheet, and a hardbound notebook (some of these freebies may have been for early release, so check the website). 

The biggest difference in the LifePlanner this year is the paper quality. This is FSC-certified quality paper made at a mill in America, and you can feel (and smell!) the difference. I'm geeking out over the weight of it.

They also improved the weight of the card stock on the tabs, so those will be less likely to bend. Just like last year, you can order a colorful or neutral design for your planner. I always go with colorful, and I like that the colors are bolder this year compared to last year's pastels. 

After the year at a glance is the goal's sheet that you can use to make monthly goals (or, you could budget here or do something else). I try to set attainable goals, but I'll work on how to use the pages more effectively. My April goal literally just said "survive semester." Check. 

Last year, there was a ruled notes page before each monthly view. This year, it has been replaced with the format you see on the left. I personally use this page to jot down information only relevant to that month (such as who did extra credit, recommendations about places I'm traveling to, meeting notes, or quotes on services we need for our house or catering if there's an event at school). I think this new format is whimsical, and I could see myself using the circles to track my weight and fitness goals (I currently use the monthly view for that). The quote pages are also back. 

I love the look of this year's calendar pages. I always write everything coming up on my calendar and then transfer to the weekly view each week. I track all of our bills on the right side of this page. 

Can I just say how amazing it is that 2018 begins on a Monday? I love this next year already. This is the "weekly view." Erin Condren offers three weekly view options: vertical (pictured here), horizontal (think your traditional school planner), and hourly. I use the top box for anything in my day before noon, the middle box for noon-5pm, and the bottom box for after 5pm. This works great for me, but I don't have a ton of variety in my daily schedule (for instance, I only need to write down meetings that are outside of my normal teaching/tutoring schedule). I like that they kept the thankful thought box but didn't label it as such. I'll continue to use it as thankful thought (it's a nice way to start the week), but I definitely see how that wouldn't be for some people. I use the left side of the page for my weekly to do list, and I often write down meal plans across the bottom of the page (on weeks when I have my stuff together that is). 

The notes section is back with four pages of lined paper (I use mine to track professional development, car maintenance, gift ideas, and discussion question sign ups for my lit classes). 

Four pages of dotted grid paper replaced the graph paper (I rarely use the graph paper, so this change doesn't affect me much). 

Four coloring pages replaced the four blank pages. I really like this change because I don't have much use for blank pages, but could see myself using these to decompress. 

Same great format for the year ahead page. I always write the next year's school schedule here as soon as it is released plus dates of upcoming weddings. 

The sticker sheets are more useful this year (I know it's funny to talk about stickers as being "useful," but they really help me visualize my week and all the things I need to remember). 

The folder is identical to last year's. 

And a perpetual calendar is still included, so you can write down birthdays/anniversaries. Maybe I should use the password page, so we could finally remember our Apple ID for the Apple TV?

I didn't want my old LifePlanner to feel too sad, so I ordered a new interchangeable cover for it :) 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spring Ends, Summer Begins

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Maybe you remember from college (or currently experience as a student or professor) the stress of the semester. It feels all consuming: the grading, prepping, tutoring, and teaching for the professors and the writing, learning, studying, and note-taking for the students.

And just like that, it ends.

I remember my last day of college: I was terrified that I would be hit by a car and that I'd never get to go out into the world with my degree. The accomplishment of finishing college is life changing. I am fortunate that I get to witness it for hundreds of people once a year. Some of them are earning bachelors and most are earning associates; many of these students will go on to continue their studies elsewhere. For the second year in my career, I wrote a recommendation letter for a student, and she won the $26,000 continuance scholarship she applied for. Every semester, I'm in awe: not just of how much their lives change but of how much they end up changing me.

This semester, 100% of my developmental students passed into 1301. 89% signed up for the subsequent 1301 course, and of those, 88% passed with a C or higher. To watch them change as writers and to watch their confidence as students grow is such a gift. In the Language Hub, 130 students came to our optional workshops with topics ranging from grammar to audience awareness to formatting. 2016-17 was an incredibly special year: winning the Teaching Excellence Award and attending Innovations in San Francisco will be hard to top. I have a feeling this year will always stand out to me.

This school year was awesome, but we were ready for it to end. We need time to refresh.

On Saturday morning, I already felt a little lighter. I woke up early and drove to San Angelo (two hours away) to meet my mom at her sister's home. Brendan decided to stay at home to work on his writing and get his interim course set up. I had an amazing day with family: lunch, manicures and pedicures, and a dinner outside complete with two sets of aunts and uncles, my two cousins, and my mom, plus a beautiful sunset.

On mother's day, I went to brunch at the Angry Cactus with my mom, aunt Lisa, and cousin McKenna (hard to believe, but she is 13 years old now!)

My mom wanted to stop in and see her mom, so we went to the cemetery and brought birdseed (my grandmother found it depressing when people brought flowers to graves). It made me sad that my mom no longer has her mom, and it made me appreciate her even more. 

Back at home, Brendan and I enjoyed the first summer patio dinner (thanks to his trip to the grocery store) and facetimed with his mom before going to bed. All the moms in our lives are amazing, and we are lucky lucky! 

On Monday, our online interim courses began. I have 16 students, and Brendan has 17. These courses last only 3 weeks. Yesterday was pretty delightful: I participated in discussion with my class, worked on my story, read for fun (Madame Bovary), read submissions for Driftwood Press, took my regular barre class, made a wonderful dinner and ate on the patio with Brendan, and we settled in to watch HBO's "Mommy Dead and Dearest" (a documentary about the Gypsy Rose Blanchard case). 

I love this summer life. And every year, I feel that it arrives just in time.

We hope you have much to look forward to as well!

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 2017 Stitch Fix

Greetings faithful blog readers. I can't wait to tell you about my 11th Stitch Fix that arrived on Thursday. If you don't know what Stitch Fix is, please read my first ever review, which explains how it works. Should you decide to get a fix, please use my referral link; I'd greatly appreciate the referral credit. This post is in no way sponsored; I pay for my own fixes and all opinions are my own.

This was my first fix to order in six months! I've been really into the comfiness of LulaRoe lately, so I haven't been ordering as many fixes, but I still love a Stitch Fix as a special treat from time to time. I didn't give many specific directions to my stylist; I just told her that it was already summer here and I was looking for clothes to wear during the hot days. 

I was pleased when my fix arrived to read that Meagan had styled me once again. She is a great stylist, and even though I didn't keep everything, I really think it was well suited for me. I had just showered, so enjoy my "messy hair, don't care" pics. 

First up was the Abree Aline Skirt and the Tucker Split Back Top: 

I was and am absolutely obsessed with this outfit. First off, it checks the box of something I'd wear to work or wear for fun. It's comfortable, cool for hot weather, AND the price was right ($38 for the top and $38 for the skirt). My only issue was that I needed a smaller size in the top, but thanks to the recent (within the past few months) ability to swap sizes, it was no problem. I simply indicated on my check out form that I needed a small in the top, sent back my medium top with my other nos, and soon I'll have the top in my correct size. So easy! Side note: why do companies insist on making arm holes so gosh darn big?! 

Next, I swapped tops and tried on the Niro Linen Pocket Knit Tee. This tee was comfortable and oversized, and I liked it. The issue was that I already have other things like this. Plus, I just didn't feel like spending $48 on a tee shirt. This was a no for me. 

Brendan was brushing his teeth while I tried on the Chester Cargo Short (yep, that's our messy bathroom counter with a Moscow Mule cup on it from the night before--classy), so I took my own pic. These shorts were really quite short! That doesn't bother me too much, but the price tag here ($68) did. Yikes! No thanks: this was a return. 

Up next was the Elinna Knit Dress. 

This dress was cute, it honestly was. I could see myself wearing it. The $64 price tag was too steep for the quality of the dress (it was a simple knit dress) in my opinion. I liked the dress but didn't love it, so it was a return. 

Even though I returned 3 of 5 items, I was still really happy with my fix. I left my stylist feedback on my price points, and I hope she listens. It's not that I mind paying money for high quality items, but if I can get something similar (cargo shorts, or knit tee/dress) for half the price somewhere else, I'm definitely returning. I loved the first outfit though, so I'm still really happy I signed up for this fix! 

In other news, we drove to Lubbock this weekend to buy Brendan a new car! Actually, we bought a 2016 VW Golf with 9,111 miles, so it was slightly used. 

It was a little emotional saying goodbye to Brendan's old Ford Escort, a gift from Boompa (his grandfather) before he started grad school. I may have shed a tear at lunch over it, but after 23 years of service to the Egan family, it was time to say goodbye to the old Ford. 

And we LOVE the VW Golf. And we love having two reliable cars (something we do not take for granted!) 

I realize it has been a few weeks since my last update, but I've been caught up in the semester ending and grading. I probably won't check in here until after final grades go in. The good news is that that is coming up as graduation is Friday. I have about 75 papers left to grade (yikes!) and then it's finally summer! 

Hang in there students and teachers! Finals week only lasts a week! 

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